Reports say US President Donald Trump has fired the director of the FBI over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The White House shocked Washington by announcing that James Comey had been relieved of his duties.
However, Democrats said he was fired because the FBI was investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The move came as it emerged Mr Comey gave inaccurate information to Congress last week about Mrs Clinton’s emails.
An FBI investigation into her use of a private email server to store sensitive information while secretary of state remains closed.
In July last year, Mr Comey said it was careless but not criminal.
The White House said the search for a successor for Mr Comey would begin immediately.
It is only the second time that the head of the FBI has been fired.
President Trump wrote in a letter to Mr Comey that he agreed with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recommendation that “you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau”.
Mr Sessions said the department of justice was “committed to a high level of discipline, integrity, and the rule of law”, and “a fresh start is needed”.
Many have expressed surprise that Mr Comey should be fired for his handling of the investigation into Mrs Clinton’s emails, given that Mr Trump once praised the FBI director’s conduct in the matter.
In the final days of the presidential campaign, Mr Trump told a rally it “took guts” for Mr Comey to reopen the inquiry. “What he did brought back his reputation,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Comey was addressing FBI agents in Los Angeles when, according to US media, he learned he had just been fired when he saw the news on television.
The 56-year-old – who was three-and-a-half years into his 10-year term as FBI director – reportedly laughed, thinking it was a prank.